Westcott House, an Anglican college of theology in Cambridge England, recently came under fire for allowing gay slang or Polari to be used in a liturgical service.
Forced to apologize after the outcry, the college was conducting a “liturgical experiment” to honor LGTB history month by “queering the liturgy of evening prayer, locating the queer within the compass of faith, and recovering for the Christian tradition a sense of its own intrinsically subversive jouissance,” according to a printed pamphlet.
It was only two months ago that another Anglican church was forced to apologize for allowing a Muslim woman to recite verses from the Qur’an that denied the divinity of Christ during a Christmas service.
In this most recent service, the Holy Spirit was referred to as the “fantabulosa fairy” and God the Father became just “the Duchess” in this queer performance.
What is Polari exactly and what are the implications of this assault on Christian values?
Polari is a fringe language that began in Britain between the 16th and 19th centuries as an argot of actors, street performers, sailors, prostitutes and criminals.
As many gay men and women occupied these fringe areas of society, Polari became the de facto language of the homosexual community and took on a code-like, underground status when homosexuality became illegal.
A mix of Italian, Romani, Palare, Yiddish, London Slang, sailor slang, thieves cant and rhyming slang, the language was closely associated with the gay subculture until the 1960s when it began to decline in use.
Polari, with a vocabulary of more than 500 unique words, closely mirrors that of English and its other associated languages in grammatical structure.
There does exist a Polari Bible for the curious, though it must be noted that the introduction on the homepage encourages readers to “Go forth and sin some more!”.
The language of God’s divine word becomes at times trite and frivolous and at others even seems mocking in the parlance of the Polari dialect.
In short, it has taken the majesty from the Bible in an act of deliberate, blasphemous corruption.
The Guardian reported that the Reverend Canon Christ Chivers, the college’s principal, called the service “hugely regrettable,” and recognized that “It used a form of liturgy which was not an authorized act of worship in line with the college’s procedures.”
He went on to say that he does “fully recognize that the contents of the service are at variance with the doctrine and teaching of the Church of England, and that is hugely regrettable.”
Supporters of the Polaric liturgy claim that “the hope is that just as Jesus welcomed the outcast (tax collectors, widows and sex workers, people on the fringe, often overlooked by the Church), today we might follow in the footsteps of His daring, boldly and outrageously welcoming the Queer (both human and divine) in a way never before attempted.”
Yet this misses the essential points of what took place 2,000 years ago.
No one would bat an eye if a person “on the fringe” were welcomed into a church service and shown Godly compassion along with proper teachings of Church doctrine. That is what Jesus did.
But to twist and pervert the Holy Gospel to stoop down to the level of sin rather than raising those ensnared by iniquity? That is the folly we see here.
With average church attendance now hovering below 1% in Wales, we are likely to see more such attempts to expand; to appeal to a wider audience.
But this cannot be allowed to come at the expense of core beliefs and values in the name of inclusion. Once you sacrifice those, very little of value or goodness remains.
As Pastor Lawrence Farley points out, this is just a symptom of a larger disease of liberal thinking in the Church today, and just as a tumor indicates a much larger problem, so also do these incidents of blasphemy and corruption in the chapel.